Last year, I drafted a post of Remembrance Day book reviews, but never published it, for some reason that escapes me now. However, since today is the centenary of the end of WW1, I thought I might dig it out, dust it off and publish it today.
Not all of these books deal with the First World War, but they all deal with war in one form or another, and they are all well-written, engaging and heartbreaking, whether they are about WW1 or WW2.
So, here’s my original post! Enjoy 😀
I just finished reading this book today and it was amazing. I think it broke my heart in several places. Here’s the official back cover blurb:
The dark clouds returned and gathered about the boy. His eyes grew distant, and he began to tremble. He heard not only the shells exploding, but the cries of the dying men…He was stumbling over churned earth, looking into the face of an officer, bloodied red as the poppies, ripped apart in the Flanders mud…
A small boy, an orphan of the First World War, wanders into the Australian airmen’s mess in Germany, on Christmas Day in 1918. A strange boy, with an uncertain past and an extraordinary future, he became a mascot for the air squadron and was affectionately named ‘Young Digger’. And in one of the most unusual incidents ever to emerge from the battlefields of Europe after the Great War, this solitary boy was smuggled back to Australia by air mechanic Tim Tovell, a man who cared for the boy so much that he was determined, however risky, to provide Young Digger with a new family and a new life in a new country, far from home.
It was so sad. It really was. And yet it also was incredibly funny, and hopeful. I don’t necessarily agree with the ethics of smuggling small children from France to Australia, but I love the fact that Tim Tovell grew to love this orphaned, homeless boy so much that he was willing to risk everything to bring him home.
My rating: 5 Stars
This book was also amazing. It dealt mainly with the Second World War, but it did have a few stories about the First World War. Here’s the back cover blurb:
Here is a fascinating insight into the influence of the gospel on the lives of people who lived through the World Wars and the events that led up to them.
The Japanese pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbour.
The German pastor who was prepared to suffer imprisonment and death for the sake of his faith.
The British general given the task of defending Malta against invasion by Hitler and Mussolini
The American airman who was converted while a prisoner of the Japanese and who later returned to Japan as a missionary.
The Jewish girl who came to know Christ as her Saviour while in hiding from the Nazis.
The American chaplain who witnessed to leading Nazi war criminals on trial at Nuremberg.
The British secret agent who was the inspiration for ‘Q’ in the James Bond 007 stories.
This book taught me so many things I didn’t know about the Christians who served, how it affected their lives and their faith, how the awful suffering of war brought them to God and helped them to rely on His strength instead of their own. The stories in this book are amazing.
My rating: 5 Stars
This book is very well-known, mostly because of the movie that was based off it. Michael Morpurgo is one of my favourite authors, even though he only writes children’s books, mainly because of the way he portrays war. He shows both sides of a war as humans, he shows the suffering of war in a realistic way, and yet in a way that children can understand. He writes his details on war so they aren’t overwhelming for children and yet are still realistic.
I’ve read War Horse several times and it’s been good every time.
A powerful tale of war, redemption and a hero’s journey.
In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey’s courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer’s son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?
Read it, and cry, triumph and smile with Joey and Albert.
My rating: 4 1/2 Stars
Another children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo. This one is about an elephant, rescued from death at the zoo, and her family. It’s also very sad.
With Lizzie’s father fighting in World War II, her mother takes on the job of a zoo keeper to provide for her family. Lizzie, her mother, and her eight-year-old brother Karli have become especially attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene. The bombing of Dresden is imminent and soon, so the zoo director explains that as a precautionary measure all the animals must be destroyed so that they’re not running wild through the city. Lizzie’s mother persuades the director to allow Marlene, the elephant, to come stay in the family’s garden.
As predicted, Dresden is bombed, and the family, including Marlene, is forced from the city. Lizzie and her family aren’t alone. Thousands of Dresden residents are fleeing to find somewhere safe to stay. Lizzie’s mother has to find a different route out of the city to keep the elephant and the children safe from harm. Once they reach the abandoned home of their relatives, they come across Peter, a Canadian navigator who, by putting himself at risk of capture to save the family, gains their trust.
This unlikely grouping of family, elephant, and enemy turned ally come together beautifully to illustrate the importance of love, resolve, and hope.
I read this one when I was very young, and it had me super confused, but rereading it when I was older I loved it majorly.
My Rating: 5 stars
(*this wasn’t one of my original books, but I just finished this and really loved it, so I had to add it!)
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
This book is a work of brilliance. No, it’s not perfect, but I absolutely loved it. It’s funny, really sad, and a whole mix of other things. Probably my favourite thing about it was that it showed a balanced view of the war. It showed bad Germans, and it showed good Germans. It showed kindness and cruelty. Grief and happiness. It did a really good job of somehow managing to include both without ever making WW2 sound like either a picnic, or a grave of unending gloom. So yeah, definitely read this book. (It’s also got a movie, but read the book first).
Have you read any of these books? Are you into war stories? Are there any children’s authors you just love because they’re amazing? Does your country (wherever that may be) commemorate Remembrance Day?